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W. J. Gaines (Wesley John), 1840-1912
The Negro and the White Man
Philadelphia: A. M. E. Publishing House, 1897.

Summary

The Negro and the White Man, published in 1897, is an overview of African American history that focuses on the developing role of black Americans at the beginning of the 20th century. The book, which contains repeated pleas for understanding and equality, is clearly intended to reach white audiences. In describing the unwholesome properties of slavery for both slave and master, Gaines, who was a slave himself, celebrates the activities of prominent abolitionists in securing freedom for African Americans. He devotes an entire chapter to John Brown's raid on the U.S. Army Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Gaines also describes the contributions of African American soldiers to the cause of freedom.

Gaines writes a first-hand account of the thrill of new freedom and the problems that remained for African Americans after that freedom had been secured. Limited education, lack of moral training, and southern resistance to enforced equality all served as obstacles to successful integration. Gaines considers these obstacles in relation to the enfranchisement of African Americans and the sectional politics that divided the nation in the late 19th century.

After his retrospective view, Gaines turns his attention to current issues. His primary focus is the increased desire for, and attainment of, education in the African American community. Gaines uses empiricism as the basis for his arguments; he provides statistical evidence to demonstrate the increased enrollment in, funding for and importance of African American educational institutions. The rest of Gaines's book is a series of chapters on issues such as economic power, intermarriage between races, cultural activities, and religion.

Bryan Sinche

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